A decade-long era of coaching continuity within the Culver track and field program has come to an end.
Mike Dove, who was the Bulldogs' head track and field coach from 2008 to 2017, as well as a high school science teacher in the Culver School District, submitted his resignation for both jobs following the end of the 2017 school year. Culver Athletic Director Shea Little confirmed the news last week after the school district posted a job listing on its website July 7 for the position of head track and field coach.
"It's kind of like losing a family member," Little said. "We never like losing coaches. Even if they're moving on, it's always a tough process for the kids, staff and the district and everybody. But at the same time, we wish everybody well and hope they continue their success, but we're obviously going to miss him."
Multiple attempts to reach Dove by phone were unsuccessful.
In what would ultimately be Dove's final season with Culver, the girls' team recorded a top-10 finish at the 2017 OSAA State Track and Field Championships in May, which included Catylynn Duff capturing the 2A girls discus state title (and the 2A state record) and Irma Retano placing second in the 2A girls 800 meters.
It was one of many instances during Dove's 10-year coaching tenure that the Bulldogs walked away from the state meet with individual and team hardware.
Dove began working with the Bulldog tracksters in 2008, and what a start he and the Bulldogs had. The Culver boys finished second in the state meet — the highest team placement of Dove's Culver career. The Bulldogs' boys returned in 2009 to place third behind a huge performance from senior Nevin Lewis, who won titles in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump.
The fervor of Dove's first two seasons set the tone for years to come. Between the boys' and girls' teams, Culver claimed top-10 finishes in seven of Dove's 10 seasons, and had a host of individuals bask in state titles. There was Tyler Funk winning back-to-back pole vault titles in 2010 and 2011; the 2013 4-x-100 girls relay team of Ana Badillo, Hannah Lewis, Andrea Retano and Lori Sandy bringing home first; Cassie Fulton winning the girls javelin that same season; in 2014, Retano adding another title with a first-place finish in the 800; and, Corey Sledge capturing two boys pole vault titles in 2014 and 2016, respectively, the latter of which was a new 2A state record.
Those were just the winners; a handful of other Bulldogs came within one or two places of a title, though still scored important points for Culver teams.
And although Culver athletes will have to adjust to a new head coach next season, plenty of state qualifiers return, including Duff, Irma Retano, Emma Knepp, Hannah Orey, Edwin Gutierrez, Jordan VanAlstyne, Johan Jaimes and Kash Michael.
"He was successful as a track coach and brought a lot of pride and tradition to it," Little said. "We're going to miss that."
Little said he welcomes either of Dove's primary assistant coaches, Thomas Kirk and Phil Sledge, to apply for the head coaching position.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two of them apply and keep that legacy rolling, because they've all been a part of it," he said. "When school gets back in session and when we get close to closing it, I'm going to encourage a couple of them to apply for the head job and keep that tradition rolling, keep that family going ... I think whoever takes it over, the people involved in the program will still be involved."
Little also left open the possibility that one of the school district's recent hirings for vacant high school teaching and counseling positions could coach the team if he or she has prior athletic experience. They could also potentially coach more than one sport, as a number of JV and assistant positions remain open in other sports.
The deadline to apply, according to the Culver School District's website, is Aug. 14. The salary range for the position is between $3,367 and $4,589.
It is unknown where Dove, a graduate of University of Idaho and Springfield, Oregon native, is headed next.